Our first writing contest had so many entries I had a hard time narrowing down the top two. Thank you everyone who played along with us and submitted a short story.
Difficult though it was, I did manage to pick the first and second place winners. In second place is this imaginative story by Joyce Lansky (joycelansky on Twitter). Joyce took the time away from her own writing to participate in our contest. If you get a chance, take a peek at her sample chapter of her novel Being Bompsie Carleffa on her weblog, Catch My Words.
Here's her short story. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Prompt from Archetype's Plot Senario Generator: The story starts when your protagonist opens a package intended for someone else. Another character is an activist who is developing a new weapon.
Joyce Paull Lansky
Our doorbell rang followed by a loud pounding. Mom and I had moved into our dumpy home last month and hadn’t had visitors. I didn’t even know the bell worked and hadn’t seen teenage guys like me hanging around this old Colorado town. I drummed my fingers on the peeling paint trim and opened our door a crack to see a huge UPS guy tramp down our walkway and slip into his truck.
A brown envelope with our address scribbled across the front leaned against the house—no name, no return address. I picked it up, shut the door and carried it to our tacky flowered couch that Mom had bought at a garage sale after we moved here. It just goes to prove that one man’s trash is still crap.
“What do you have, Ryan?” Mom wrapped a thick bang behind her ear. A red-jewel earring hung from her lobe and matched her checkered blouse. She crossed her arms and shivered. No surprise in our freezing house.
“Don’t know. A UPS guy delivered it.” I plopped on the couch causing its springs to give a tired squeak as I sank into a faded tulip and dug my nails into the seam of the package. The envelope split open and white popcorn packing pieces showered my lap, so I brushed them off and got a pissed look from Mom.
I reached into the envelope and pulled out a quarter-sized metal square. Five thin wires popped out of it as if they were bug legs. I flipped the thing on its side to find a weird squiggly symbol scratched into the metal. “What’s this?” I asked Mom.
“Looks like junk.” She took off her heels and rubbed her foot. Mom called something junk? She’s the biggest packrat I know. “If you want to keep it, go ahead, but I’d toss it.”
“Yeah.” I bounced the square in my hand, carried it to my room and laid it on my desk next to my computer then went to the kitchen for Mom’s yummy fried chicken. Miracle I’m not fat with all her cooking. Must be my teenage boy metabolism: snarf a breast, back, two wings, and four drumsticks, give a burp then start all over again.
After lunch, I opened the door to my room and glanced at my desk. Where’s the thing? The spot on my desk was empty so I searched the floor then jumped when a beep came from my computer. The little square had sunk its spiny claws into the plugs on my computer and a series of black numbers spat across the screen. I hit the escape button—nothing, so I grabbed the metal piece.
“Ouch!” A shock zoomed through my body and threw me three feet into the air. My head smacked the hardwood floor, and I stared at the gray ceiling. My hand tingled and a red, swirl pattern covered my fingertips where I’d touched the thing. I shook my fingers and sucked on them to deal with the throbbing pain and burnt smell.
As my fingers touched my lips, the ceiling changed into a city scene with twenty-foot leaps of fire licking a night sky. Sweat rolled down my forehead and I ripped off my sweatshirt. What happened to our drafty house?
“Ryan!” A raspy voice called from my computer. “You’ve intercepted a Madseu. You must return it at once or the New York scene on your ceiling will be real.”
From the floor, I stared at my computer as numbers repeatedly filled the screen. I must’ve bonked my head hard with the fall. I rubbed it. “I don’t understand. Who are you? How do I return a, what did you call it?”
The numbers faded as if melting and a gray-bearded man with a ruddy face and deep-set eyes filled my screen. His nerdy tie clashed with a colorful Hawaiian shirt. “I’m Norm, the inventor of a government weapon designed to destroy American enemies. Undisclosed troops intercepted the Madseu hooked to your machine and reprogrammed it to use your computer against our government. You must bring the Madseu to Denver this afternoon.”
“You’re crazy. I’m not touching that thing again.” I used my bed to lift myself off the floor and stared into the computer.
“You have no choice. Terrorists are downloading military codes! They’ll launch weapons against us if you don’t cooperate.” His eyes glared out of the screen as if the fate of the entire world depended on my sixteen-year-old self. “Use aluminum foil to retrieve the Madseu. Pull it off your computer and put it in a freezer. After one hour, remove it with foil and place in ice. I’ll meet you at Beau Jos on Colorado Boulevard, 2:00.”
“What, are we going for pizza?” I chuckled as the computer screen faded then darted into the kitchen pantry and yanked out a shiny piece of foil. Racing back to my room, I covered the creature with an aluminum coat. What do I have to lose? The thing is creepy and I want it gone.
As I pulled the Madseu off my computer, it gave a deafening shriek, so I squeezed its silver body. The metal wiggled in my hand enough to make it hard to balance when headed to the kitchen. I bumped into three walls and bruised my hip before falling onto the fridge and opening its door. A blast of cold air shot into my face as I threw the thing next to a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream and shut the door.
“You hungry?” Mom called from the den. Although she doesn’t hear half of what I say, she has super-sonic hearing zoomed into the opening and closing of our fridge.
“Just getting a drink.” I said.
My golden retriever Prince growled at the freezer door then lunged forward and back. I reached under his collar and yanked him backwards before sinking into a kitchen chair. Prince’s nose twitched as he continually pulled toward the fridge.
I checked my watch: 12:45. I hoped Prince wouldn’t growl for the full hour. I started for the kitchen door when the fridge wobbled side to side then pounded the back wall. Boom! Boom!
“What’re you doing in there, Ryan?” Mom entered the kitchen and screamed. She backed into the wall with her hands over her mouth and eyes wide enough to fall out.
“Remember that thing in the package?” I said. “It’s in the freezer.”
Mom grabbed her purse and frantically tore her fingers through it until she pulled out her cell. “I’m calling the police,” she said.
“No, Mom.” I put my hand on top of hers. “I’m taking care of this. I must freeze it then take it to Denver.”
Mom tilted her head to the side as the usual you’re-nuts-forehead-wrinkles popped up. “Sure Ryan, why don’t you take the whole fridge while you’re at it?”
I cringed then folded my arms across my chest. “I’m taking it out at 1:30 and a guy’s going to meet me at Beau Jos at 2:00.”
“I’m coming too.” Mom sat at the table and stared at the fridge for forty-five minutes while it rocked in its own hissy fit. It started to slow then stopped at 1:20. Ten minutes later, I threw ice into a chest and dumped the foil wrapped metal square into a freezing bed and closed the lid.
Mom helped lift the chest into the back of our brown pickup truck, and we eased down a mountainous path to nearby Denver. The radio blasted Mom’s eighties music all the way to the highway. I wish she wasn’t tagging along, but there was no escaping Mom once she’d made her mind up.
As I pulled into The Beau Jo’s lot a yummy pizza smell filled the air. The inventor stood by the door, gave me a friendly wave and headed toward us. My heart sped. Can I trust him?
“You’ve got the Madseu?” He asked.
“Uh, yes, but…” I eyed the fellow. He wore the same gaudy shirt as before along with short shorts and sturdy hiking boots peaking
over sick-green socks.
The man smiled and pulled an FBI badge out of his pocket. I don’t know much about feds, but his ID looked real.
“Sorry about your troubles.” He handed me a stack of crisp hundred-dollar bills and easily took the ice chest off my hands. “There’s ten grand. Thanks for saving the world.” He winked then hopped into a red jag. As he drove off, images of the same fire scene from my room spat out of his tailpipe. A gigantic chalkboard eraser shot out of the car’s antenna and swept the fire out of the sky.
I glanced at Mom. “I think we got someone else’s package.”
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